Future of New Waterford mobile care team uncertain

Last summer, the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced it needed to temporarily reassign nurses working with a mobile care team in New Waterford. NDP MLA Tammy Martin said the team hasn't worked in the community since then.

Local MLA asks why the team was never restarted after staff were temporarily reassigned last summer

New Waterford's mobile care team was set up to handle non-emergencies overnight by treating people in their homes. (CBC)

The MLA representing New Waterford is upset a mobile care team has not been working in the community since its staff were reassigned for vacation relief last summer.

Last June, the health authority announced that emergency nurses from community hospitals and New Waterford's mobile care team were being temporarily assigned to the emergency department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, a regional trauma centre.

Tammy Martin, the NDP MLA for Cape Breton Centre said, "Then the fall came and they [said they] would reassess in the New Year. Now, from what I'm being told from staff there, is that it's not even part of the schedule anymore."

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says the team is being re-evaluated.

The mobile care team was launched in 2014 as a way to take overnight pressure off the local hospital's emergency department. The team treated people in their homes for non-emergencies.

"It was a vital part of our community," said Martin. "Our residents depended on it. It was part of the solution to assist residents with health-care issues."

Emergency nurses at community hospitals and New Waterford's mobile care team were reassigned to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital emergency department last summer.

Health authority spokesperson Greg Boone said it's been difficult to send staff back to their community emergency departments and the mobile care team because the authority continues to struggle to fill emergency room nurse vacancies.

Boone said reassigning the mobile care team nurses had the least impact on the fewest number of patients.  

"On average," he said, "the mobile care team was only seeing one or possibly two patients a night. Some nights there were no patients that were seen."

The future of the mobile care team remains uncertain, Boone said.

"At this time we haven't made any decisions about its status. We're continuing to look at and review the overall emergency nurse staffing and that includes our ability to continue to staff the mobile care team."